The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Format: E-book (review copy)

Length: 416 pages

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Source: Edelweiss

Expected Publication Date: January 15, 2013

From Goodreads:

For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.

Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.

Here’s what I thought:

I originally requested to review this book after seeing it featured on another blog, and because it looked like something I would enjoy. The cover art is pretty and reminds me a little bit of The English Patient–definitely evocative of another time and place. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, though, as I only vaguely knew about Charles Lindbergh and the events that made him famous.

Imagine my surprise when, several pages in, I realized that Anne (aka the aviator’s wife) was actually Anne Morrow Lindbergh, writer of Gift From the Sea. I don’t know why I never made the connection between the two, especially considering the notoriety of the last name. I received Gift from the Sea as a high school graduation present and I loved it; it’s actually one of the few books that I’ve held on to through all of the moving around I’ve done since. I’m definitely going to have to do a re-read now that I know more about the life of the writer, and to see if it’s held up over the years.

Anyway, back to The Aviator’s Wife. The story is told from the point of view of Anne, and it reads almost like a diary, as it is told with an intensely personal tone. Nothing is held back as the reader is given access to Anne’s thoughts and feelings as she reminisces on her life spent married to Charles Lindbergh, “Lucky Lindy” and world-renowned hero. The personal nature of the book makes many of the experiences Anne recounts feel very universal in nature, even as her life was anything but ordinary. In many ways, this is just a book about a marriage, and about a woman’s struggle to find her place in a world in which she at once fits and doesn’t fit into traditional roles. I found myself relating to many of the feelings that Anne expresses and thinking that they would be relevant even today.

The other aspect of the book that I found interesting was its treatment of celebrity and the consequences of fame. Charles and Anne Lindbergh (and the family, by extension) struggled with being in the intense spotlight of national attention. They were more famous than movie stars–they were even famous TO movie stars, as Benjamin recounts how other celebrities sought them out and wanted to interact with them. The effect of all of this attention is disastrous to their family in many ways, and I really felt for their situation and couldn’t help but draw parallels with the paparazzi of today.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a very personal take on a famous figure, and although much of the historical detail in the book is based on real events, Benjamin explains in the afterword to the book how she took some liberties as well. It definitely inspired me to want to find out more about the Lindbergh family and Anne in particular, and I will have to do a re-read of Gift from the Sea in the near future. Recommended.

Thanks so much to Edelweiss and Delacorte Press for providing me with a review copy of this book.

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